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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

@Bill_George Tweets President’s #HCR Address

7:56pm EST – @Bill_George: “#health – waiting for pres. obama’s speech: anticipate he’ll take middle ground on insurance & propose ins exchange instead of public option”

Last night I was confident of several things.  First, my Twitter addiction had officially taken hold, and I would fuel it by tweeting my way through the President’s Address to Congress (“Hey, that would make great material for a blog post”…).  Second, this speech would define the remainder of the health care reform debate.  The President would either steer Congress further into the quagmire or redirect them towards drier, middle ground.

7:59pm – “#soccer – miserable first half for u.s. – donovan had great chance at the end – must do much better in 2nd half”

Lastly the President, and certainly the cast of characters on the House floor, would likely be far more entertaining than the first half of the US v. Trinidad & Tobago soccer game.  But I digress.

I switched channels just as the President’s cabinet weaved across the floor.  And as the President himself assumed the podium, I wondered: would this speech be a high-flying rhetorical display, or a practical treatise?  Would the President go on the attack or play defense?  How deep in the weeds would he get on policy?  Would he be the Democratic politician, or the bipartisan leader?
Most importantly, how would Congress and America respond?  One way to answer at least that last question would be to do just that: respond.  So, I did.  The following is an array of my Twitter conversations across the duration of the Address, intermingled with a few respective clarifications.  What were the in-the-moment reactions to the President’s speech?  As they say in the Tweetdom, “follow me”:

8:04pm – “#hcr Pres. Obama must retake control of hcr debate tonite. not about dems and repubs but what’s in it for us and how will he pay for plan?

And the President was off: “When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.”

8:10pm – “#health – interesting that Pres started with jobs crisis – at least he is facing that reality but no solutions offered – on to health care

At the time I was intrigued, but it made perfect sense for the President to set the proper scene: America’s struggling but slowly-recovering economy.  This placed the issue in proper context.  Cost-effective, long-term health care reform is one necessary component of regaining a strong financial footing and putting Americans back to work.

8:19pm –#hcr – Pres doing job of making the case for insurance reform – We shouldn’t lose coverage with pre-existing conditions or loss of jobs.

8:26pm – “#health – insurance exchange makes sense -self-funded? run by government? In lieu of public option? Mandatory coverage good but a tough sell

I was very impressed with President’s cohesiveness and efficiency in these opening lines.  And he was very shrewd to highlight issues of universal agreement alongside issues of universal debate.  Compelling recognition of shared interest, this was an important and recurring strategy in the speech, as well as an important step in making the debate respectful as Congress moving forward.

8:33pm – #health – good move to take on bogus claims by Palin, et al and insurance companies denying coverage”

I had hoped the President would take “death-panels” head-on, and he did so with a confidence and above-the-fray dignity that every President should project in such circumstances.

8:40pm – “·  #health – looks like public option is back. He is doing a good job (finally) of making the case. promising savings, but where’s the beef?”

I concede that it’s difficult to interweave important policy nuances into an hour long speech, but the details are what matter right now.  At this point, I was still waiting.  And so were the Republicans, as they waved copies of a GOP health care bill.

8:48pm – #health – are medicare savings he’s promising real, or just more reimbursement cuts? Good move to take on malpractice costs and tort reform.

Time, and the Congressional Budget Office, will tell if the savings are legitimate.  However, I was pleased with the President’s stance on malpractice and torts.  He scored points with independents and conservative Democrats with that one.

9:07pm – #soccer – US beats T&T 1-0. Great win on the road. Much better play in 2nd half. Good for Ricky Clark. On to World Cup – Let’s get top seed.

I just had to check the score.  And to my pleasant surprise, the US came a winner tonight.  Switching back to the speech as the applause boomed and the President stepped down, I pondered: was Obama’s speech a winner too?

9:09pm – #health – an excellent speech by Obama. Finally, he is back to being a leader and taking control of debate – now the hard work begins.”